1. essential life
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    essential life Member

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    Interweaving dialogue and exposition/description into a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by essential life, Aug 25, 2009.

    I'm writing a story that mostly involves two people having a conversation with each other.

    I have much of exposition and character and cultural background stuff that I want to put inbetween the lines of dialogue. It basically has to be in there, but I'm worried about breaking up the dialogue too much and interrupting its flow.

    But I just don't see how I can get around it. It really want that stuff to be in there. One possibility would be to put as much exposition at the beginning, but I don't want my reader to get turned off by it when they're trying to get into the story.

    I don't know if I've even explained my problem well enough, but any tips?
     
  2. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    You could slip some of the background into the dialogue itself.
     
  3. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Give your reader some credit. He or she should be able to remember what was last said, even if there’s a huge paragraph in between.
     
  4. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    If you're simply worried about the reader remembering, I agree with DragonGrim. At worse they can look back at the last sentence.

    I agree with Rumpole40k as well. It's a clever way which when done right is inconspicuous but gets the job done.

    You can also use thoughts, and possibly emotions/body language to convey that sort of thing. Like if one guy's big characteristic is he gets angry a lot, just make him get angry a lot. Bad example I know, but it should get my point across.

    Another thing you can try is setting the scene before the dialogue begins, whether at the beginning of a chapter or page. So it would work something like this.

    Jon and Dan wandered into the living room. Dan was proud of the room; he felt that the moose head, bearskin rug, and oil lamp did a great job of displaying his Canadian heritage. He felt most at home in there as well.

    If you word that example correctly, you may not even need to say canadian. So I've given a setting, shown its culture, and how it makes Dan feel in one short paragraph.


    That's all I can think of right now. Good luck!
    Nate
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First off, breaking up dialogue is usually a GOOD thing. Uninterrupted dialogue is hard to follow, and it disconnects the reader from the scene in which the dialogue takes place. It becomes more like listening to a conversation through the door instead of being in the room.

    But be careful about how you insert exposition into the narrative, too. Make sure the exposition fits the scene. To pick on lipton lover's example (sorry, LL):
    Dan just zoned out on Jon. How many times has Dan walked into that living room? Is Jon so boring that Dan is caught up in reexamining this all-too-familiar room, rather than paying attention to the live human beside him?

    It doesn't fit. Description is a form of action too. The character's attention is implied in the act of describing, so make sure that it makes sense for that character to be paying attention to those details.
     
  6. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I don't mind :) your point is well taken. Though, to save myself, I'll say how I did it may actually be a good thing. It can show that Dan can wander off in his thoughts and forget about his company, which he could then apologize for or something. But yeah, you're right.

    Actually, since I'm now obsessed about my example that was pretty bad in the first place, it could simply be seen through Jon's eyes, especially if it's his first time in the room. Then, observing all of it would be natural and expected.

    Nate
     

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